When can I consider myself a writer? That question came to me years ago when a college mate told me: “You like to write, don’t you? You’re a writer”, to which I answered that yes, I really liked to write, but I didn’t consider myself a writer. My mate accepted the answer and that was it.
Time passed and I never asked myself that again, but lately the question returned: when can people consider themselves writers? Many of us confuse being a writer with a series of self-imposed standards and requirements, or some we see in others.
The first preconception, that I had for a long time, was that I couldn’t call myself a writer until one of my works was published. Because that’s what being a writer means, right? When they pay you to write a book, an article, a movie or series script. Since I had texts in my personal computer, I thought I couldn’t consider myself a writer, as long as those works remained unknown to the world. There were some texts that I didn’t even show to my family or friends, so at that moment and under my own criteria, I couldn’t call myself a writer.
This year, when my first book was published, in addition to feeling extremely happy and proud, I thought I could finally call myself a writer. I teamed up with a small professional editorial to make my book a reality. So now I could consider myself a writer, correct? But then I came across new obstacles. I am not a known writer. My book was available only in Spanish, just in some countries, just in certain bookstores, and mine was one book among the hundreds of thousands available to the public. When I approached some independent bookstores to know if they were interested in selling my book, almost all the ones that answered (most of them didn’t), told me they didn’t want to risk ordering my book to the editorial and having it in their bookstores, because new writers are not known and that leads to people not buying their books.
And that led me to think that being a writer is when your work is known. The writers are not under the public eye as often as singers, actresses or actors, so the ones we get to see in interviews are probably the most known in the world. Are only those famous enough the ones that can consider themselves writers? Those that people recognize and eagerly await their new titles, and that libraries order their books to have in their inventories because they know is an assured sale. Those whose books are available in any country of the world, in any bookstore or store, in multiple languages. Those are the real writers, correct?
My dear readers, let me tell you that those ideas are wrong. We mustn’t confuse earning a living by writing with being a writer. To be a writer has nothing to do with economical income, with reputation, or with fame. That’s just another part of the career as a writer. It is hard, but possible, to earn a living by just writing, but that doesn’t mean that until we achieve that we can’t consider ourselves writers. José Saramago, one of my idols and a genius in literature, didn’t devote exclusively to writing until he had several books published, and he as a writer, a really good one, way before being discovered by the world.
Being a writer has to do with creating texts: big or small, known or unknown, simple or complex. It’s related to creating characters, planets, cities, metaphors, phrases. With being incapable of living without the literature world. We are writers when we are passionate about ordering words one after the other in a way that express what we see and feel. We are writers when we’re in love with this form of art, being novices or experts, when we’re excited to flip through the pages of a book and smell the aroma of paper; we are writers when we’re aware of all the work and dedication that goes behind a book, a poem, an article, a note, an entry on a personal diary, an e-mail.
It took me a long time to realize that we are writers because we write, it’s as simple as that.
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